Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Book Excerpts

In order to wet your appetite a little for the book, I've decided to give you some book excerpts. These are just small tidbits of the actual interviews. This material is copyrighted so please do not copy or repost without prior permission. Enjoy.

On the first days of class by Jason Fulmer

"My game plan begins well before I get that group of children. I look to make connections with my students and their parents from the moment I get my class roster. It's critical that I make these connections prior to them arriving in my classroom as that sets the stage for the entire year. This lets the kids get to know me and allows me to talk with them and their parents. I would also send post cards to the families over the summer that describe a little bit about what third grade would be like. At pre-open house, I'd have a science fair board with a picture of me on it from when I was in third grade so the kids can see that I was just like them and a part of the same learning process.

Take the time to establish these relationships and trust early on, and when your kids come in those first few days, it becomes all about building upon those relationships as opposed to creating new ones. And it tends to go pretty smooth since you already know the kids, they know you, and they know that you know their parents, which is really important. that often used saying, "You have to reach them before you can teach them," is very much the case. After that, it's all about focusing on procedures, procedures, procedures."

On extra credit by Keil Hileman

"I absolutely love extra credit! In both of these previous examples you can use extra credit as a selling point, but you should be using it in various ways. It's one of the best tools a teacher has at his or her disposal. The thing you have to remember is that kids in elementary and middle school don't tend to really understand percentages when it comes to grading. So here the trick is to make extra credit worth thousands of points. When I used to give papers that were worth 5 extra credit points, I might get them back on toilet paper or all stained up; that is if I ever got them at all. But when I switched it up and made the papers worth 5,000 points, suddenly every student was doing them and I was getting them back on golden paper with perfect binding, protective layers, and tabs. It was as if it were a sacred document from the President of the United States! They were so excited to get all of those points, even though it was really no different than the 5 points, but with different percentages. I've heard teachers tell their students that there is no extra credit and that they should just do the work given because that's their job. Well the real world doesn't work that way. In reality, the more work you put into something, the more you're going to get out of it.

Using this huge amount of points extends beyond extra credit as well. This is a real trick of the trade and teachers should use it to their advantage. I give my students 100,000 points a day for participation, 500,000 points for tests, and projects are worth over a million points, so you can imagine how good a job they do on those! If it sounds like a lot, they are going to put in a lot. If it doesn't sound like much, then you aren't going to get much in return."

On discipline by Alex Kajitani

"I think the key to classroom discipline is preventing problems from happening long before they could develop. Granted, sometimes issues begin at the lunch tables, or at home, and follow our students into the classroom. I see misbehavior as a psychological and sociological issue, and therefore, apply principles of both to my discipline plan. I use James Wilson and George Kelling's "Broken Windows Theory": Crime is the inevitable result of disorder (which has received much attention in Malcolm Gladwell's book, The Tipping Point). Thus, someone who sees chaos, and sees a system that deals with criminals ineffectively, is more likely to commit a crime himself. The appearance of order prevents crime. Like Rudy Giuliani cleaned up Times Square by cracking down on graffiti and subway turnstile-jumping, I crack down hard in my classroom on the two most visible offenses: chewing gum and being tardy. When students see that they can't even get away with mere gum-chewing, they don't try anything more daring.

When behavior issues do occur, it helps to use humor to diffuse situations quickly, and to think about the motivation behind a student's actions. Just the other day a student kept interrupting class by belting out a loud noise, apparently imitating a character from a TV show. I realized he needed some attention, focus, and a release, so instead of reprimanding him, I told him that whenever anyone answered a question correctly, it was his job t make that noise. He and the class loved it. He focused intently on the lesson and got a good laugh from all every time he made his noise (when I wanted him to make the noise, not out of turn) and we got to go on with our learning without further disruption. No one lost face, everyone still felt safe, and order was maintained."

On parental involvement by Dr. Samuel Bennett

"The second focus was on keeping the communication open throughout the year. For this I used classroom journals that went back and forth from home to school every day. I would write something and a parent would write something back. It was almost like a continuous telephone conversations between parent and teacher. The parents always knew if there was homework due, how their student was behaving in class, what would be due soon, and just about anything else they needed to know. I was always aware of what was going on at home that could possibly be affecting the child's performance in my classroom. This method of communication worked very well. I required my students to have that journal signed every night by a parent even if there was nothing written in it for that day. That journaling back and forth was critical in keeping the parents involved. They basically had no choice but to become involved, even if it was only to read a paragraph that I wrote and then sign it."

On differentiation methods by Tamra Tiong

"One of the most successful ways I've found to differentiate instruction is to allow students multiple pathways to a common destination, particularly when it comes to writing. For example, when a piece of creative writing is the goal, I will give kids a number of choices on how to begin. Some kids choose to use one of the magazine pictures I have on file as a starting point for their story. Some kids choose to use pattern blocks on the floor to create a scene or character that becomes the focus of their story. Some kids choose to use a "squiggle," literally a scribble I have made on paper with a black marker which they extend into a picture their imagination creates, and write a story based on the original picture they have drawn. Yet other kids can begin by using a flip-book that gives them a silly sentence around which to create their story."

On the use of stories to maintain attention by Ron Poplau

"When I talk to education classes I always tell new teachers to take as many speech and drama classes as they possibly can. The attention span of kids has gotten so low these days that you can't really talk that much to them. Cooperative learning is an improvement and has kids talking to each other, but even then you can see them check out after a little while. Stories, however, can last a lifetime. There are so many miracles that you can share with them that would not only get their attention, but inspire them to want to learn more. It could be stories from your own life or things that you've just read about. I use them to captivate the imagination of my students and it pays off. I would encourage all teachers to liven up their lessons by using as many stories as possible."

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